The last time we wrote about Promise of Peace Community Garden, it was causing a ruckus in the neighborhood. In 2013 founder Elizabeth Dry wanted to relocate the garden from a property next door to The Lot on Grand to a new location in the parking lot across the street from White Rock United Methodist Church in Little Forest Hills. But when nearby neighbors found out, they were afraid the garden would disturb the peace in the neighborhood, so they did everything they could to keep her from putting down roots. They contacted their councilman, signed a petition, stuck “No garden” signs in their front yards, and even threatened to move. Lucky for Dry, there was another parking lot on the opposite side of the church, and the neighbors on that side were eager to accept her leafy offerings. The church also let Promise of Peace use its classrooms, a conference room and an office. That was almost three years ago, so what is Dry up to now?
What is Promise of Peace Community Garden to you?
It’s like a back porch for the community. People come and sit on our picnic tables, sometimes they use the grill, we’ve had birthday parties here, and we do kids camps and cooking classes. We want to do some pickling classes. It’s about education and how to sustain a healthy life. I just want to feed people, and I really want to help decrease diet-related problems, which are a leading cause of death in the United States. The more gardens and cooking classes we have, the more that will change.
How have things been since you relocated in 2013? Any more drama?
We’ve gotten lots of support. The only thing that has kept us going is local support. We’re grassroots, and we don’t have any corporate sponsors. It’s all by the people.
We have three gardens now [under the umbrella of the Promise of Peace nonprofit] that we built and maintain: this one [at White Rock United Methodist Church in Little Forest Hills], one at Agape Methodist Church [near Henderson], and one at Bayles Elementary [in Far East Dallas]. I go there once a week to teach horticulture and cooking classes.
Earlier this year you retired from teaching at Alex Sanger Elementary to focus on the garden. How are you enjoying retirement?
I love it. I lie in bed and drink coffee when it’s 8 o’clock and the bell is ringing. I’m like, “Let’s see, should I just lie in bed for 15 minutes and then work on the computer or not?” I mean, I’m working my butt off, but it’s on my terms. It’s amazing. There are no barriers. I removed all the barriers from in my life.
When I became an educator I wanted to fix things, to make things better. I’ve always wanted to do that. So I was a principal, I was a director of curriculum. I’ve worked a lot of different places. I think I did make an impact, but since I started the garden I’ve never been happier because I’m able to share something authentic with so many different people. So now instead of being in a classroom all day, I’m out on the streets preaching and teaching. I see a lot more and have a lot more human interaction with all kinds of people.
How many people do you feed a month?
I feed kids at school and then people who are just passing by, I give them leafy greens all the time. We feed about 120 kids a week and about 150 adults.
What do you have planned for 2016?
When I retired I went to all the resources in Dallas I had heard about over the years, and I turned over every stone I could think of. I was going a whole lot of different directions, and so what I’m doing now is narrowing it down to maybe like six initiatives.
The Imagine Garden [in Little Forest Hills] is our home base, so we want to continue to connect with the community and serve the community as needs arise and continue to provide a lot of education to children about where food comes from. We want to continue the urban farm at Bayles Elementary. The teachers are all psyched about it, and the children and families. We’re going to build six plots. Then at Agape we want to build a greenhouse and explore the idea of establishing a community café with a small market at the corner of Garrett and Capitol.
Another one of the initiatives we have planned is to cook soup, so you can buy two jars — one for you and then you give one away to someone hungry. Because there are hungry people everywhere, not just in certain parts of town or certain parts of the world. We need to be helping each other.
How do people get involved?
The first thing is to contact me so I can give them a garden orientation. There are lots of ways to utilize the garden, some of which I don’t even know yet. The garden has so much freedom that they could come to me with an idea. Also, there are plots available in January. We do plot leases from January to January or August to August.
For more on Dry’s efforts, go to promiseofpeace.us
*This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
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